Pedantic Semantics

Not at all pretentious

1.01/1.02 Pilot

Posted by Paul on July 11, 2010

“Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark.”

“Where’d that come from?” “Probably Bear Village, how the hell would I know?”

“Guys… where are we?”


Favorite tracks: Credit Where Credit is DueHollywood and Vines

And so it begins. I wasn’t sure how it would feel, going back to the beginning so soon after the end. At first it was strange, and for two reasons: the first being that I know how things end, and seeing these characters at the starting line again was almost surreal. The other is that the opening sequence has become so iconic in such a short time, and I’ve seen it so many times. However, like any story well told, it brings you back in on its own terms, and soon you’re as engaged in it as you were the first time. It’s like going back to an old friend you’ve cared about deeply, yet not sure how things will play out. I’m happy to report it was a truly joyous reunion. That said, let’s first talk a little more about the opening sequence.

Television shows rarely start in media res. Even contemporary serials like Battlestar Galactica and Heroes let themselves build up before the craziness started. Lost doesn’t quite start out guns a blazing. It begins with a mystery. Who is this guy? What’s with the dog? Why is that shoe hanging there? And then, bam.

The controlled chaos of the crash’s immediate aftermath is done with a truly skilled touch. We see all the characters we’re going to get to know over the course of the season and, in many cases, the course of the entire show, but the action never lingers too long on any one person. Even Jack, central to so many parts of this story, is one voice among nearly fifty. We do learn some things though, even if we don’t really have a chance to process them until after things have settled down and Jack is getting stitched up by Kate, who is mysteriously rubbing her wrists as she walks out of the foliage.

We know that Jack’s primary motivation is to help people.

We know the same of Boone, except he’s not quite as good at it.

We know Michael and Jin  both had someone important to them on the plane.

We know Claire is eight months pregnant.

We know there’s something wrong with Charlie.

We know Shannon is not good at taking care of herself.

We know Hurley likes to say “Dude”.

And I wonder if on first viewing anyone even noticed Locke in the chaos.

The rest of the cast weren’t seen until afterwards. Kate, Sayid, Sun, Walt, and Sawyer all come in when the action slows. We get our first good look at most of them when the Man in Black throws his temper tantrum in the jungle on that first night. Knowing what I know now, I have to think he was not pleased with Jacob’s new batch of candidates. Also noteworthy is when Locke looked up at the noise of Smokey trashing the jungle. That look of fear mixed with morbid curiosity was foreshadowing, even though the writers themselves didn’t yet know it.

Likely the most important moment in the Pilot, looking back, is Locke’s now (in?)famous Backgammon Speech. I quoted it at the top, but here it is again: “Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark.” Abrams and Lindelof knew from the beginning that this was the core of the Lost mythos: a cosmic struggle for the fate of existence. They even had to have known that that thing knocking down trees was a side in this game with the highest stakes of all.

Locke truly came off strange the first time I saw this episode. The scene where Kate is having to take shoes from a dead person, only to look up and see Locke smiling with an orange in his mouth doesn’t cast him as the most stable person. Now we know he was probably trying to cheer her up.

Over all the first part of the Pilot merely sets the stage, albeit in a very entertaining way. The second part began focusing on what was truly the show’s bread and butter all the way through. The characters.

The scene where Sawyer shoots the bear and the subsequent interplay between the characters (also known as the OMGWTFPOLARBEAR! scene) is a prime example of this. We get a bead on everyone there, and quite a few great lines. Another thing I’ve noticed this time through is that Maggie Grace is a better actress than people give her credit for.In fact, all the actors are near-perfect. There are two things in this show almost nobody has found fault with in this series. The first is Michael Giachinno’s superlative score, the other is the masterful job they did with casting (barring two mistakes in season three and one in season six, but we’ll get to those, and most of you know the characters I’m referring to, anyways). I’m sure the people in charge of Lost’s casting are in high demand now the show’s over.

That scene was great, but the true hook came at the end, with Danielle’s transmission and the away team’s sense of impending doom.

Now, when Charlie asks where they are, we know quite a bit. The Island is obviously conscious in some way, how we don’t know, but it has been able to acquire itself human guardians over time, imbue them with powers, move people through time, and keep people from dying (until it’s time for them to anyway). The Island is the home of the source of existence, and keeps non-existence plugged. It is and has been home to many groups of people. But what these survivors have stumbled onto that most affects them is a battleground, and they’ll know that much before long. At this point, the first time we all saw this amazing beginning to an amazing series, we knew as much as Charlie. Now that I know more, the experience is neither better or worse than the first time. It is different.

There are many things introduced in the Pilot that became major to minor components of the series. Musically, we heard the first versions of several themes, two of which I’ve linked to at the top. There began the tradition of people not being entirely truthful to each other. Even Hurley chooses to tell Jack his nickname rather than his given one. Kate learns Jack’s method of controlling fear (which we would learn much later Jack learned from his father). The Man in Black/Smoke Monster was introduced, we met our first polar bear, and between the man retconned as Gary Troupe getting sucked into the jet engine and the pilot beng MIB’s first victim, it was made clear this show came with a bloody body count. The themes of fixing, running and addiction were introduced for their respective players. There was, of course, the dark/light divide that would become more and more integral to the story.

Most importantly, I think, was that we were starting to get a sense that these characters didn’t end up together by accident. They are interconnected, and not because of Jacob or even the Island itself. They are connected simply because they must be. The scene in the Pilot that illustrated it best was when Jin fed Claire a piece of sea urchin. Claire’s baby, who hadn’t moved in nearly a day suddenly started kicking, and overjoyed Claire put Jin’s hand on her belly, much to prim and proper Mr. Kwon’s dismay. Knowing Jin would play a major part in this baby’s birth added even more dimensions to this scene. Bonds are being formed, and it will be made clear over the next six seasons just how much these people need each other.

So, already established are the fascinating, deeply nuanced characters. And we’re seeing the Island as a place of terror and death, but also of wonder and mystery. Two sides of the same coin.

One is light, one is dark indeed.


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